"Unplugged" - 2012/8/2 - published
This summer I unplugged from social media. No Facebook. No Twitter. No Google+. No email. No Instagram. No Blogging. The thing is, I truly love the whole idea of social media. I tend to be an early adopter on things like this and hope my involvement adds values to all those who follow, consider me a "friend", have me in their "circle," like my pics and read my blog.
As I planned my sabbatical, I had to decide how social media would or would not fit in. Given the fact that a sabbatical is such a rare privilege, I decided to cut out social media completely. Believe me, it was not easy; however, there are a couple of reasons why I made such a drastic move.
First, I wanted to protect my priority relationships. No doubt there are valuable connections to nurture via social media. However, I have to decide which relationships get priority attention. Prior to my sabbatical, it was not uncommon to find myself engrossed in a news feed while my kids were playing in the playroom trying to get my attention. Similarly, after the kids were in bed, I would plop down on the couch and continue reading posts with my wife sitting two feet from me. Taking a break from social media forced me to see the value of the priority people in my life, the people who truly need face to face engagement.
Secondly, I wanted to break the subtle hold social media had on me. There was a part of me that just wanted to prove to myself that I "didn't have a problem." The truth is, it was creeping over the lines of appropriate. Generally speaking, I'm a proponent of moderation in most things; however, anytime there is an arena of life without clear lines and limits, we run the risk of detrimental excess. As I shared above, social media began to rob me of vital time and focus in priority relationships. It was simply good to detox and reset my approach and expectations toward social media. It's only been a few weeks, but I can already see that the nagging draw toward social media is dramatically reduced. In hindsight, I realize that I really haven't missed much, which only tells me that social media, particularly that which is outside the expectations of my job, is really something I can live without. So, moving forward, I intend to stay very much involved in social media with some clear lines to keep me from unhealthy excess.
This experiment away from social media has caused me to re-think the place social media has in my life. So, I decided to create some rules. Here they are...
Rule #1) Social media is not my go-to time filler. Down time is vitally important for priority relationships. Much of the warmth and enjoyment of relationships comes from the unplanned and unexpected down time we have together. When we fill the down time by devoting out attention to our phones, tablets and laptops, we lose these opportunities to really engage those we love most. I urge you to identify the priority relationships in your life; say them out loud. Mine are Amanda, Drew, Cooper, Wesley and Ford - my wife and kids. I will not allow my wife to feel neglected because I'm staring at a backlit screen. I will not allow my kids to grow up with a mental picture of me tethered to my phone.
Rule #2) Social media should be scheduled. Instead of social media filling the empty spaces of my life, I choose to keep social media inside the fence of a clear schedule. This is the only way to protect relationships and not allow the unlimited information, pictures and posts to dictate how I spend my time.
Rule #3) Social media demands good communication. When I do engage in social media, I need to offer those around me the courtesy of good communication. For instance, if I were out to dinner with my wife and we ran into an old friend, it would be expected for me to pause to introduce my wife and ensure she isn't slighted or left out of the connection. In fact, it would be rude not to do so. However, we do this constantly with social media. We dive into the lives of others while in the presence of our spouse or kids or coworkers, and frankly, we are rude. We must honor those around us with good communication. Try this, "Honey, I'm going to check Facebook for the next 15 minutes. Please interrupt me at anytime." Then, after 15 minutes, put it away. This is the respectful way to handle social media.
I hope this helps you think about or re-think your own relationship with social media. As you know, my desire most of all is to help you take steps toward a better marriage and/or becoming a better mom or dad. I pray you will consider these thoughts and even share your own thoughts in the comments below.
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